Blackhawks healthy, Blues down T.J. Oshie ahead of Game 1

St. Louis Blues right winger T.J. Oshie breaks his stick while attempting a shot against the...

St. Louis Blues right winger T.J. Oshie breaks his stick while attempting a shot against the Washington Capitals during the second period at Scottrade Center. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

Twenty-three goals in three games.

The opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs was a fan's dream but a coach's nightmare.

What if it's contagious and turns the St. Louis Blues-Chicago Blackhawks series into a track meet, too?

“I hope not. But we'll see,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock following his team's morning skate in anticipation of Thursday's curtain raiser on the best-of-seven affair.

“Emotion plays in to a lot of it. Usually the first game of a series is pretty hectic. You've just got to get used to playing in it.

“I think you've got two teams with experienced players who know how to calm it down a little bit. This is where you rely on veteran players to calm it down a bit.”

While the Blackhawks have the fortune of a healthy lineup to start the series, the Blues are already down a couple of key forwards.

T.J. Oshie (head/neck) and Patrik Berglund (upper-body) are both out due to injuries. Oshie skated with the team in the morning, but isn't ready. Hitchcock has said he expects all of his ailing players to be available in the series.

Vladimir Tarasenko has been given the green light to play, a big boost to the Blues and their second line that has him with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka.

Tarasenko hasn't played since March 15 when he required hand surgery. The 22-year-old wouldn't speak to the media, but Hitchcock said there are no limitations on the winger.

“He deserves an awful lot of credit. He did the double-extra duty to be physically conditioned to be ready to play,” Hitchcock said. “Look, this is gonna be a significant challenge for him. First of all, he's never played in a playoff game very much, and secondly, he's missed a lot of time. We understand that part.”

As for the Blackhawks, the defending Cup champions, Patrick Kane will start on the third line while he tries to ramp up his game from a knee injury suffered March 19.

“I’m excited to play hockey again. Excited to be in a game situation and play a game. It’s exciting. I’m getting a little anxious to get out there and play,” Kane, who is wearing a knee brace and once again has his hair cut with a 1980s mullet.

“But at the same time, I feel good. I feel ready. I feel I’m ready to play hockey again. Everyone kind of goes through their certain injuries and different things they have to deal with. It’s something I haven’t been through a lot in my career. But I’m definitely happy it’s over and excited to play.”

Jonathan Toews is more refreshed after missing the final six games (upper body).

“I never want to miss games, I don't think anybody does, but in a way, it's helped me prepare for this series and be ready to play the best hockey I could all year. I feel I'm definitely ready to do that.”

Here are lines based on the morning skate at the Scottrade Center:

St. Louis

Forwards

Steve Ott-David Backes-Alex Steen

Jaden Schwartz-Vladimir Sobotka-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brenden Morrow-Derek Roy-Ryan Reaves

Chris Porter-Maxim Lapierre-Adam Cracknell

Defence

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Jordan Leopold-Roman Polak

Goal

Ryan Miller

Brian Elliott

Chicago

Forwards

Kris Versteeg-Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad

Patrick Shark-Michal Handzus-Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell-Andrew Shaw-Parick Kane

Brandon Bollig-Marcus Kruger-Ben Smith

Defence

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival

Goal

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta


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